DR Congo

DRC: Postponement of the signing of the Ituri cease-fire agreement

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By Yulu Kabamba
At the conclusion of the last Dar Es Salaam consultative Summit held on 9-10 February 2003, the Heads of States of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda set out an updated calendar for the implementation of the Luanda Agreement signed on 6 September 2002. The DRC, Uganda, Angola and MONUC representatives held a ministerial meeting in Luanda on 14 February 2003 with a view to devising practical modalities for the implementation of the Ituri Pacification Committee.

Since the signing of the Luanda Agreement on 6 September 2002, MONUC has spared no effort in working towards the pacification of Ituri. In this regard several initiatives were made jointly with all the parties involved to halt hostilities, put in place the Pacification Committee and to restore an administrative authority as agreed by all the parties. To these ends MONUC made contacts with the grassroots and "forces vives" representatives, including the active armed groups in Ituri, to encourage them to seek a local truce and create an environment conducive to pacification and the restoration of normality in this bloodstained region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

MONUC welcomed the approval by the Luanda ministerial meeting of its proposal which would have paved the way for a ceremony for the signing of a cease-fire agreement by all the protagonists, as a prelude to the effective launching of the work of the Ituri Pacification Committee on 25 February 2003.

However, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for the DRC deeply regrets to note that, on the very day the ministerial meeting was held in Luanda, 14 February, the Union for the Congolese Patriots (UPC) led by Thomas Lubanga issued a press release alleging a partisan role played by MONUC and casting doubt on the participation of other groups in the Ituri pacification process. The UPC communiqué also expresses doubt about the sincerity of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the process. The Special representative deplores the unjustified grievances leveled against the UN mission, which is not a signatory to the Luanda Agreement and can, under no circumstance, be accused of partiality.

The Special Representative particularly notes that UPC decision to prevent certain actors in the Ituri crisis from participating in the efforts to halt hostilities: this will inevitably result in a postponement of the signing of the cease-fire agreement which was scheduled to take place in Bunia on 19 February 2003. Furthermore the UPC objections will compromise the launching of the Pacification Committee itself at the time agreed in Luanda.

In view of the continued obstacles, MONUC held consultations with the different parties to the Luanda Agreement and has decided provisionally to suspend the calendar for the implementation of the Luanda Agreement, as amended in Dar Es-Salaam and Luanda to give the Mission enough time to make the contacts necessary to allow the pacification process again to be taken forward. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General appeals to UPC to desist from blocking the initiatives which aim for a signing of the cease-fire agreement and the launching of the Pacification Committee. He also calls upon all the other parties directly or indirectly concerned in Ituri to refrain from taking action likely further to jeopardize pacification efforts in a region which has suffered such dreadful atrocities exacted against a population which lives in a continuing climate of fear.